I remember the first time I saw my son. I loved him immediately. He was 14 years old and weighed only 67 pounds. He had written a short list of things he said he would like to have, but most of it was crossed out because he “didn’t deserve it.” My heart broke over and over for him as he told me about his life. Rejection, abandonment, abuse, neglect. He had never experienced unconditional love, grace, or mercy. Four months after he came, God answered our prayers, and his 13-year-old sister joined our family.
When our children came, they were broken. Years and years of ridicule and shame had taken its toll. In one of our foster-parent support groups, someone made a great analogy comparing our children’s experiences to Swiss cheese. They have holes caused by neglect and abuse, but we can fill in these holes by nurturing our children. It was a great visual and really helped me understand our children’s needs in a new way. Our mission became to love them as they had never been loved so they would know, without a doubt, the personal and immense love of the God who created them.
One of the biggest holes our children have is holidays. Christmas, in particular, was used to exclude and punish them. God gave me an idea to show them love in a tangible way for Christmas by making up for the past Christmases when they received nothing. They each received a note from Santa saying that he had kept their gifts until they were in a safe place to receive them. For their first Christmas they received a baby blanket. Because they are teenagers, I wasn’t sure how they would react, but it was incredible. Our daughter ran upstairs screaming that Santa had come. She woke her brother up and eagerly read me the note from Santa. They wrapped themselves in their little blankies and smiled and smiled. One hole in their hearts had been filled.
Throughout November we had many Christmas mornings, but one especially touched my heart. For her eighth gift, our daughter received a baby doll. She was so excited and jumped up and down squealing. She took that baby doll everywhere for weeks. She loves to love her baby. She told me, “I’m going to be a good mom one day.” As simple as that sentence was I heard her hope and determination. I heard her moving out of survival mode and into dreaming of a future. God knows them so well, and He knew these simple gifts would lead to tremendous healing.
Today our children aren’t broken anymore. They are being pieced back together a little bit more every day. They don’t sit in the corner and cry anymore. They are thoughtful and kind and have wonderful laughs. Our son has grown over four inches in just nine months. Everyone can see their progress and will often tell me it’s because they are living in a safe and loving home. Some people give credit to the many, many hours of therapy they have done. Those things do play a part, but the real healing is coming directly from God. He is healing them from the inside out. He is replacing the lies they have been told with truth. They no longer believe they are “bad kids” who caused all the problems in their lives. Now they know that they are loved, wanted, and cherished. Knowing these truths is changing their lives.